This is the most important non-conference game for Syracuse this season. Week 1 we saw them make multiple mental mistakes en route to a 42-41 loss to Northwestern. The following week, we saw an inspired team play in a loss to USC, one of the nations best teams in the country. Week 3 brought us a ho hum performance against Stony Brook which ended in a win.
This weekend is where we truly find out where this team stands. Northwestern was a tough game to judge because of all the mistakes. USC was an extreme on one end of the talent spectrum, Stony Brook was on the opposite end. This Saturday against Minnesota, we get to see Syracuse play a team that is on caliber with them and Northwestern, and we should be able to really judge any progress or improvement that this team has made since they played in week one.
The Gophers come in to the game at 3-0, one of only three Big Ten teams to do so. The Gophers are without starting quarterback MarQueis Gray, who is out with an ankle sprain. Yes Minnesota is 3-0, but their schedule has been rather Rutgers-like, with their three victories coming against UNLV, New Hampshire, and the almighty Western Michigan Broncos.
This is a game that Syracuse should absolutely win. The weather is always unpredictable outdoors in Minneapolis, but the forecast foresees perfect conditions for Ryan Nassib to throw the ball all over this team. This game is absolutely critical for the Orange to make a statement that they can be a contender in the Big East this season.
The Orange have appeared to play up or down to their competition this season, so a decisive victory would absolutely go a long way in establishing confidence as well as swagger to this football team. The Orange have played better on the road than at home in recent years under Doug Marrone, so if that trend continues, look for Syracuse to control the game and come away with the victory.